A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant - Reception - Reviews


A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant received positive reviews from the press. A review in The New York Times described the musical as having a "crude, faux-naïf sensibility", and stated that it "provides a cult-hit blueprint for a young generation that prefers its irony delivered with not a wink but a blank stare." A 2003 review in New York City's The Village Voice compared the show to The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, stating: "Just as Ui doesn't explain the complex phenomenon of the Third Reich, Scientology Pageant doesn't probe the psychology of cults; instead, both demystify subjects whose appeal stems in no small part from the mystique their acolytes have attributed to them." Though most of the media reception of the musical was positive, New York Church of Scientology President John Carmichael did not have kind words for the production. Carmichael asserted that L. Ron Hubbard was portrayed in the play as "an authoritarian demagogue whose methods create emotionless followers." Other critics complained that the young members of the cast were portraying characters and depicting content that they could not understand.

The Los Angeles Times review in 2004 stated that: "The show found a New York audience willing to move from the tongue-in-cheek children's pageant concept to something that became startlingly adult." In a 2004 review in The Guardian, the article cited notable quotes from other reviews, including The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New York Observer. The review stated that audiences "have a chance to witness a wide-eyed, straight-faced, scrappy and touching telling of the story of L Ron set to a cheesy electro-pop score. See the great man, clad in a white Plyphonic Spree-style gown, wander from inquisitive soul to wounded war veteran to writer of pulp science fiction to leader of world religion. Sort of."

Of the updated 2006 version, Variety stated that "..the breezy one-hour show is equal parts adorable and creepy, hilarious and unsettling, making it way more compelling than your average holiday entertainment." The Boston Globe also reviewed the 2006 edition of the play, and its review spent more time giving background on some of the cast and crew, particularly writer Kyle Jarrow, stating that "..Jarrow has created a musical about L. Ron Hubbard that is, in its own sardonic way, much more funny and touching than any of Cruise's diatribes against Ritalin." The New York Sun described the production as an: "ingenious musical account of L. Ron Hubbard's life and times", and compared the discomfort produced by watching the piece to that produced by the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp.

The 2007 Philadelphia production also received favorable reviews, and critic Wendy Rosenfield of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote "..somehow the production emerges triumphant, retaining its innocent sense of inquiry and buoyant good humor while making some pretty serious philosophical points." A review in The Washington Post of the 2007 Washington, D.C. production was more critical. Peter Marks wrote that "..aside from a weird sci-fi back story involving Prince Xenu, a figure from Scientology lore, the incidents the playwright relates that shape Hubbard's belief system unfold choppily and dryly." The production received a positive review in by Bob Anthony in AllArtsReview4U, who wrote "This is so charming that it rates a "must see" status. The show should be extended at another venue." Manya Brachear reviewed the 2008 Chicago production for the Chicago Tribune, and highlighted the play's "trilling tunes", including "Hey! It’s a Happy Day!" and "The Science of the Mind". The two Chicago productions in 2009 also received favorable reviews in the Chicago Tribune; the reviewer noted, "this show manages to simultaneously skewer Scientology and showcase the young performers in an upbeat, fun way."

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